What is Sufism?

Dr. Sophia Pandya on Sufism

On May 18, 2014, Multicultural Mosaic Foundation hosted another special speaker along with sampling of delicious Turkish food. The program started with a prayer for and a commemoration of the 300 hundred miners who died in Soma, Turkey last week. Dr. Sophia Pandia’s speech was titled “What is Sufism?” She joined us from California and gave a lively speech full of humor and exciting facts while informing the audience on the mystical dimension of Islam that is also called Tasawwuf. Dr. Pandia is a professor of religious studies at California State University and specializes on women, religion, and globalization.

Speaker Series on Sufism

Dr. Pandia gave many example stories from Rabiatul Adawiyya’s life while explaining different tenets of Sufism that included its critics, its evolution in stages over the centuries from a subversive to a more institutionalized movement, sources of Sufism, its practices, different branches, gender related issues, and different branches. She posited that claim of authority is an endless debate in the religious context that includes Sufism.

As the pearl of Islam, Sufism is interested in the esoteric side or the kernel of Islam which represents the hidden meanings. Sufis believe that “one should die before they really die” meaning that one’s ego must die, and one must achieve “fana” in order to be with God. Fasting, taking vows of silence, practicing celibacy, sleeping on the floor are some of the Sufi practices to move away from the body towards God. sufism in anti-orthodox and women like Rabiatul Adawiyya were able to attain a high status, because Sufism emphasizes spirituality.

Dr. Pandia also talked about Hizmet and Fethullah Gülen’s interpretation of Sufism that expresses love of all creation through service or hizmet, and has helped raise a new generation of moderate, spiritual, educated people who are able to engage with democracy, pluralism, and the contemporary world while building bridges through interfaith dialogue and braking stereotypes. She also mentioned the “super hizmet women” who are dedicated in such Hizmet activities of the type of outward Sufism that actively seek ways to reach out to others.

Dr. Sophia Pandya and Ismail Akbulut

Finally, Dr. Pandia presented the verse 24:35 from Qur’an depicting a beautiful image of God. The program ended with several questions that Dr. Pandia answered such as the commercialization of the Whirling Dervishes performances, and Al Ghazali’s leaving of practice of law in order to taste Sufism.